The Third Circuit is Unhappy About Motions for Overlength Briefs

In an order entered yesterday and issued per curiam, on behalf of the entire Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Chief Judge McKee directed that “a three-judge Standing Motions Panel is hereby appointed to rule on all motions to exceed the page/word limitations for briefs since the page/word limitations, prescribed by Fed. R. App. P. 32(a)(7), should be sufficient to address all issues in an appeal.”  The court noted that motions for leave to exceed the page/word limitations are filed in approximately 25% of all appeals, and that 71% of those motions seek to exceed the limitations by more than 20%. 

The order cautions that “motions to exceed the page or word limitations for briefs are strongly disfavored and will be granted only upon demonstration of extraordinary circumstances.”  Such circumstances include multi-appellant appeals where the appellee seeks to file a single consolidated brief, or complex or consolidated cases “in which the parties are seeking to file jointly or the subject matter clearly requires expansion of the page or word limitations.”

Finally, it may not be enough to request an overlength brief near the deadline for filing.  Rather, the order advises counsel to seek “advance approval” of requests to exceed the word/page limitations “whenever possible.”  Absent such an “advance request,” any request for an overlength brief “shall include an explanation of why counsel could not have foreseen any difficulty in complying with the limitations in time to seek advance approval from the panel.”  There is no definition or other indication as to how far in advance “advance approval” must be sought.  Appellate counsel who think they may need a relaxation of page or word limits would be wise to determine that as early as possible, and to seek “advance approval” from the court.